On Monday we lost yet another of our loyal helpers and supporters with the untimely death of Matthew Malarowski at the age of 67. He was a key member of Steve Barker’s ground staff. A full tribute is on all our social media outlets.

As you are now most probably aware Brett Donnelly is leaving his coaching role at Hitchin to take over as manager of Stotfold. He is going with our best wishes as he embarks on the next stage of his career. I spoke to Brett to get the background to his move and to ask him about his time at Hitchin.

Brett has always wanted to become a manager but found the coaching role at Hitchin a great learning curve. He always thought that he was good at man management and liked to get to know players and to integrate them in to the squad. Even when playing he was a leader and enjoyed organizing things on the pitch. Brett felt that having had a year away from Top Field made his transition to coaching easier as there had been significant changes in personnel. While Brett did coaching it was always the management side that interested him.

He has nothing but praise for Mark Burke and they worked well together. He felt Mark opened up more over time and gave Brett increased responsibility which gave him great insight in to the role of a manager. He respected what Mark has achieved at Hitchin and while Brett did not always agree with Mark’s views they would have detailed discussions about selection and tactics. Brett appreciated that as manager Mark had to have the final say and fully respected this.

Brett really enjoyed his time at Hitchin and he says he will always be a Hitchin supporter. He will still watch our Monday evening games at Top Field and is certain that Hitchin and Stotfold will have a close relationship. Brett is very ambitious and wants to move Stotfold up the football pyramid. He will be a hands on manager and is confident he will handle difficulties such as telling players they are not selected. He will pick teams on form rather than reputation.

Brett said his goodbyes to the players on Monday and said it was really sad as it was the end of an era. He has received so many kind messages from the squad and said they were a great bunch who took on his ideas. He has also had messages from so many football colleagues from all over the country which really touched him. He said that it was tough to leave Top Field but the club has left its mark on him. This is because he thinks Hitchin are a role model that other clubs should follow as he feels things are done properly and while big money is not on offer players are well treated.

Brett would one day love to be manager of Hitchin although he jokingly said he may have to shoot Mark Burke to achieve that ambition! Butt seriously, good luck to Brett and there is one final thing to look forward to as he has promised me he will do a special leaving blog!

With Brett departing to Stotfold Mark Burke has acted quickly to fill the vacancy by promoting Josh Bickerstaff and Michael Jones to become joint first team coaches. Mark looks forward to working with them both as he plans for the new season. He said that they are young and enthusiastic and keen to learn. They will instill fresh ideas and each of them brings something to the table with Josh having had a distinguished playing career at our level while Michael has been involved in coaching from an early age.

Josh always wanted to stay involved in football but with his playing career having been cut short by injury he was even more determined. His father Gordon made the transition from player to management so Josh is following in his footsteps. Josh feels that having played in the Southern League Central division means he has the recent knowledge to pass on to the players and he can share his experience. He can cement the bond he formed with many of the squad who played alongside him. Josh feels we have been going through a transitional period with young players stepping up in standard. He feels they will only get better and while there is a long way to go he is quietly confident we can have a successful season.

Michael was understandably happy to be promoted and says he will work really hard. He has a UEFA B coaching badge and obtained his first coaching badge when just sixteen. Like Josh he will have different ideas to Mark and is confident in his tactical knowledge and is a full time coach at our academy. He will work closely with Josh to provide quality coaching sessions. Michael sees a young enthusiastic squad who are keen to learn and work hard and says there is a good atmosphere. He is also confident looking ahead to next season.

One advantage of Michael’s promotion is that it will offer encouragement for the academy players who Michael works with every day. They now know that Michael is in a strong position to recommend elevation to the first team squad if they impress.

Firstly I would like to reiterate my thanks to Brett Donnelly for his help over the years as both player and coach. He was a great conduit between management and players and will be missed. Stotfold is a great opportunity for Brett to cut his teeth as a number one and I wish him the best of luck. I will always be available if he needs any help.

Our return to training on Monday went really well. There was a great turn out and I was really surprised by the level of fitness the players showed which was much better than I might have anticipated. It was a very sharp session and it was great for the players to interact with each other again and for the banter to return. We will continue to have one session a week in April before a close season break.

As I was driving back from training I received a phone call from Steve Barker to tell me that Matthew Malarowski had died. I was really stunned by the news and could not believe it. I was lost for words and send my condolences to his brother Marek and the rest of the family.

I’m sure you have seen a couple of website posts have been made recently regarding supporter engagement initiatives. The first, was an upload of an activity package to keep Junior Canaries busy during the Easter holidays and the second, was the announcement of the winner of the kit design competition.

For those that haven’t seen it yet, check out the club’s social media to see a special message from HTFC Manager Mark Burke, congratulating winner Thomas Cowles and sending a thank you to all those who took part.

Behind the scenes, planning and research is ongoing for further initiatives to be launched in the near future. We are also looking through the fantastic artwork that has already been submitted to us, framing and laminating all of the pieces in preparation for display at Top Field. We can’t wait for supporters to see the wonderful contributions from our local schools.

There’s certainly a lot to look forward to and we are keeping busy with trying to bring as many ideas as possible to life!

Our scheduled game this week at home against Barking FC was postponed by the opposition. Our next scheduled game is away on Wednesday 14th April against Heritage Football Academy.

There has been no training this week due to the first week of the Easter break. This allowed coaches and players to support the Hitchin Town Community football camps which were run Tuesday to Thursday at the Arena.